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Posts tagged: street photography

Miguel Rio Branco’s Portrait of Love and Pain Inside the Damned City

Miguel Rio Branco. Preto e rosa com bandeira, 1988-1992-2012

Miguel Rio Branco. Preto e rosa com bandeira, 1988-1992-2012

Cities are unnatural; they are purely man-made constructions of artifice masquerading as civilization that reinforce hegemonic conditioning of behavior and thought. Being adaptable, by nature, we are easily led to believe that the triumph of nature is our birthright despite all evidence that it is our death sentence.

The concentration of people inside a landscape of concrete, steel beams, and glass combined with the decimation of native flora and fauna leads to a curious result. Wo/man is never so lonely as being lost in the crowd, consumed by the shadow of fear — fear of missing out. Everywhere it seems, the illusion of success holds a promise that escapes their grasp: of beauty and joy, of status and wealth.

Here, city dwellers are locked inside a false binary, desperate to believe the illusions they are fed by pop culture and social media. They strive for the impossible, climbing to the top of the short ladder only to learn there’s nothing there; or they find themselves pushed to the bottom of it, excluded from the opportunity to learn that this is nothing more than an illusion.

A Portrait of the Eternal City During the 1970s

Rome is a cinematic wonderland: a landscape made to be immortalized in photography and film. It’s grandeur lies in the dereliction of empire everywhere you look, the inevitable, inescapable decay of the imperialist impulse. It is pure romance in the nineteenth century sense of the word: the sublime awe-inspiring knowledge that all that remains of the past is fantasy and myth.

By the 1970s, Rome had become a restless place, one of innocence long faded away. In its place, a new spirit emerged, one that evokes the pride of those who are determined to survive at any cost. It is anything but la dolce vita, though a Fellini-esque spirit lurks in the shadows of debauched darkness punctured by quivering beams of shining light.

It is in this city that American photographer Stephan Brigidi took aim, capturing slices of daily life in his new book Rome 1970s: A Decade of Turbulent Change (Daylight). Like many world capitals of the era, Rome had become a harsh, sinister place, the breeding ground for the kidnapping and murder of prominent politician Aldo Moro by the Red Brigades.

Photos Capture the ‘Serenity and Chaos’ of India

“I feel the serenity in the chaos is what makes India so amazing–the smells, the noise, the heat, the people, the animals,” the Bangalore-based photographer Vivek Prabhakar tells us. “I love going out when the streets are busy. There are so many moments unfolding.”

A Multi-Faceted Portrait of the Genius of Photographer Jim Marshall

Man outside a liquor store in Oakland, California, 1962

Black musicians still had to fight to perform in venues in non-black neighborhoods, even though the black and white locals of the American Federation of Musicians had merged. North Beach, San Francisco, 1960.

John Coltrane listening to playback at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio for Impulse Records, New York City, 1963

When most people think of photographer Jim Marshall (1936-2010), scenes from rock and roll history come crashing to mind: Jimi Hendrix setting his guitar on fire during the Monterey Pop Festival; Johnny Cash flipping the bird at San Quentin State Prison; Janis Joplin lounging like a vixen in a sparkly mini-dress with a bottle of Southern Comfort in hand; the Charlatans playing the Summer of Love concert in Golden Gate Park.

But Marshall’s roots go deeper than rock: they thread through the history of jazz, in the nightclubs and festivals where he honed his skills as self-taught photographer coming of age in Jim Crow America. A perennial outsider, Marshall championed the underdog, the spaces where the oppressed and exploited transformed their pain and sorrow into beauty and art.

As a man of the streets, Marshall understood the power of the activist to transform the way we see and think. He used the camera as his instrument, to tell the story of the people and the times — not just the headlining names but the regular folks who fought for the cause that we’re still fighting for more than half a century after he made some of his most indelible photographs.

Scenes from A Pivotal Era in the Gentrification of Miami Beach

E.J. Pence, competitive bodybuilder South Beach, 1990

Ocean Drive, South Beach, 1992

As with nearly every major city across the United States, Miami Beach was reduced to a shell of its former self. As the Nixon White House policy of “benign neglect” systemically denied basic government services to Black and Latinx communities, white flight caused the economy to plummet into the abyss.

Nixon’s attack on minority communities didn’t stop there as he invented the “War on Drugs” in 1971 as a way to criminalize the Black community and build the foundation for the prison industrial complex, in which legal slavery openly flourishes across the nation.

Under the weight of state-sponsored terrorism against the very citizens it purported to serve, cities collapsed into a horrific vortex of poverty, crime, illness, and death. Miami Beach was particularly hard hit as it became the stomping grounds for Colombian drug cartel during the 1970s and ‘80s. By the time Fidel Castro emptied the jails and sent 125,000 Cubans to Miami on the Mariel Boat Lift in 1980, Miami Beach’s glory days as tourist destination were a thing of distant memory.

Werner Bischof’s Breathtaking Portrait of Mid-Century America

Advertising signage, southern states, USA 1954

The Golden Gate Bridge from above, San Francisco, USA 1953

Magnum photographer Werner Bischof (1916-1954) arrived in the United States a year before his death and spent 1953 traveling across the continent. His series USA, currently on view at David Hill Gallery in London through July 26, 2019, is a vivid portrait of the nation as it rose to become a global superpower.

While most of his contemporaries were firmly entrenched in the tradition of black and white, Bischof broke free, using color to capture both the mood of a place and the quality of life, creating lyrical poems of extraordinary nuance and depth. The exhibition features a selection of 25 photographs that reveal his experiments in color and motion to capture the sensations of being in a rapidly modernizing country possessed with entirely too much faith in itself.

Celebrating “The Sweet Flypaper of Life” in Roy DeCarava’s Centennial Year

Roy DeCarava, Boy in park, reading, 1950

Roy DeCarava, Swimmers, 1950

“We’ve had so many books about how bad life is, maybe it’s time to have one showing how good it is,” Langston Hughes said of The Sweet Flypaper of Life, his landmark art book collaboration with Roy DeCarava recently republished by David Zwirner Books.

In 1952, DeCarava became the first African-American photographer to win a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship. He used the one-year grant of $3,200 to make the photographs that would appear in the book, a tribute to Harlem glowing in the final years of its legendary Renaissance.

DeCarava gave Hughes a selection of prints from which the poet wrote the story of Mecca through the eyes of Sister Mary Bradley, a fictional grandmother who knows everybody’s business and will put you on if you listen.

William Klein pays homage to the medium of photography

William Klein – New York. Atom Bomb Sky, 1955.

William Klein – Tokyo.
Dancers interpret Genet’s Notre-Dame-des-Fleurs in street of small offices, 1961.

William Klein – Moscow. Bikini, Moscova river’s beach, 1959.

A William Klein photograph is immediate, visceral, and intense. It will have you rooted then falling through a rabbit hole in the space/time continuum, Sure you’ve seen these photographs before — how do they stay fresh? How has Klein mastered the form so profoundly that you can see the ripples of influence, his style so transformative and informative that it’s syntax has become common parlance?

The answer lies in Celebration (La Fabrica), his latest book. The photographer, now 91, looks back over his life’s work and selects his favorite works in homage to the medium he loves. Traversing New York, Rome, Moscow, Madrid, and Paris, Klein’s choices are a revelation of the man behind the lens, the one in search of the electric sensation of being alive and forever paying it forward.

“Here is my preface for Celebration, with photos like Proust’s Madeleine. Is that a good idea?” Klein asks, ever forthright, with the understanding that to venture backwards can offer a thousand sensations and memories, the least of all for the artist himself.

Rediscovering Garry Winogrand’s long forgotten color work

Garry Winogrand (American, 1928-1984). Untitled (Cape Cod), 1966.
35mm color slide. Collection of the Center for Creative Photography,
The University of Arizona.

During the 1950s and ‘60s, Garry Winogrand made more than 45,000 color slides, socking away tens of thousands of unprinted images when he died. The Bronx native came from humble working class roots, where the journey — and not the end — was the purpose of his work. Winogrand photographed, and left an archive behind of the world seen through his streetwise eyes.

Known best for his black and white photographs that pioneered a snapshot aesthetic in fine art, Winogrand’s color work is now receiving its due in Garry Winogrand: Color at the Brooklyn Museum, now through December 8, 2019.

As the exhibition reveals, color was an ace in Winogrand’s hand. He was thoughtfully attuned to the vibrations that color imbued the image as a whole — as well as the way it enhanced our experience of the objects themselves. In his hands, color becomes a poem, a sonnet, an ode, a diddy bop that you can imagine Winogrand whistling while he worked making these photos.

Harlem Through the Eyes of James Van Der Zee

James Van Der Zee, Eve’s Daughter, c.1920
Gelatin silver print; printed c.1920, 6 1/4 x 4 1/4 inches

James Van Der Zee, Marcus Garvey with George O. Marke
and Prince Kojo Tovalou-Houénou, 1924
Gelatin silver print; printed c.1924, 5 x 7 inches

Picture it: Harlem, 1918. James Van Der Zee, 32, opens Guarantee Photo Studio on 135 Street just as the Harlem Renaissance was coming into bloom during the first wave of the Great Migration.

As northern Manhattan became the Mecca for Black America, Van Der Zee was there to record it all inside his studio and on the streets. James Van Der Zee: Studio, recently on view at Howard Greenberg Gallery, is a portal into the past, into a time when Black society thrived and set the pace for music, art, poetry, literature, dance — well, you name it.

Van Der Zee was no exception. He set himself apart by using painted backdrops and luxurious props in the studio to create elaborate tableaux for his subjects, and bathed them in sumptuous lighting to evoke a painterly touch, imbuing each photograph with the hand of the artist.

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